NEWS

Brussels talks resume with reinforced Greek team

A reinforced Greek team is to resume tough negotiations with representatives of the country’s international creditors in Brussels on Thursday, with some new proposals from the Greek side expected to be discussed, in a bid to make some progress toward a deal.

According to a senior Finance Ministry official, the Greek delegation to Brussels involves 18 people, ranging from government negotiators to technocrats expected to provide eurozone officials with some of the accounting data they have struggled to obtain to date. The talks are expected to continue until Sunday as time is running short for Greece to conclude an agreement with its creditors before state cash reserves run out.

Meanwhile in Athens, the Cabinet is on Thursday set to discuss the proposed provisions of a multi-bill being drafted by a new “political negotiating team” and which is expected to recommend changes to Greece’s public sector and tax administration but not to tackle key areas of contention such as pensions and the labor market. A government official indicated that the government’s “red lines” would remain in place, noting however that the provisions have not been “written in stone.”

The thorny issues of pension and labor sector reforms, along with privatizations and the size of this year’s primary surplus target, are expected to dominate talks in Brussels, however, as creditors are keen for progress in some of these areas.

Greek officials are hoping that an extraordinary Eurogroup could be called before the one scheduled to take place on May 11. A eurozone official told Kathimerini that an agreement at the May 11 meeting was unlikely while stressing that Greece has “days, not weeks” to conclude a pending review. A possible scenario, he said, is that eurozone officials could issue a positive statement. This might encourage the European Central Bank to allow Greek banks to increase their exposure to T-bills.

While Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis insisted that an agreement with lenders could be reached at the beginning of May, other SYRIZA ministers appeared more skeptical on Wednesday. In an op-ed published in Crash magazine, Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis cast doubt on whether Greece and its lenders could reach an “honorable compromise.” Alternate Minister for Social Security Dimitris Stratoulis said there was no way the government would accept “painful compromises.”

A poll by GPO for Mega TV on Wednesday indicated that 78.1 percent of Greeks want there to be an agreement, rather than a rift, with lenders. A similar percentage wants Greece to stay in the euro “at all costs.” The idea that the government should hold a referendum or snap elections if it has to cross its “red lines” to reach a deal is supported only by a minority, according to the survey. Only 32 percent of respondents say there should be a referendum and just 26.3 percent back the idea of early polls.